In just a few short years, Frankford Avenue has exploded as a commercial corridor, and it’s happened in a variety of ways. Some businesses have opened in repurposed industrial buildings, like Frankford Hall back in the day and Suraya much more recently. Plenty of other businesses have opened in brand new buildings, like the massive City Fitness or the collection of smaller businesses on the 1800 block. But perhaps the majority of businesses have opened in buildings that were built for mixed-use, fell out of use, and have come roaring back to life along with the rest of the corridor.
While the reuse of old mixed-use buildings produces the most satisfying architectural outcome, those retail spaces are generally limited in terms of size, ceiling height, and adaptability. In new construction, on the other hand, developers can produce very attractive retail spaces that will ostensibly attract more customers and result in higher rental rates. It’s surely due in part to this reality that 1520 Frankford Ave. is now on the chopping block.
We have to think that when this building was constructed a long time ago, it was built as a home, not as a mixed-use building. While it may look rather small from the street, it’s got almost 1,800 sqft spread among 2.5 stories, and if an old listing is any indication, the place is in pretty poor condition. The developers that bought it last year don’t care much about the current condition though, as they’re planning to tear down the building and replace it with a four-story structure with four apartments and a retail space. This project makes perfect sense, given that this is roughly a 2,000 sqft lot on a commercial corridor. Still, it had to go to the ZBA last week. It got approved though, so look for the project to move forward in the coming months.
Just two doors down is a similar building that was renovated a few years back into the Philadelphia Record Exchange. And whoever owns that building did a great job with the rehab! From an architectural diversity standpoint, we’d rather see the same thing happen at 1520 Frankford Ave., but the finances of the situation make that a significant challenge. The current owners paid $345K for the property a few months ago, and at that price point the only thing that makes financial sense is demolition and new construction. The good news is that Frankford Avenue will gain four new apartments and a top notch new commercial space. The unfortunate side effect is that it will lose an old building and the character it brought to the corridor.